Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Brenda Brown, May 12, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:27 - Brown's background and interest in nursing

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Partial Transcript: All right, so, Brenda--I was hoping, if we could just start off and you tell me a little bit about yourself.

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes her career; she retired as a nurse and X-ray technician in 2013, and previously worked for Dr. Halcomb from 1970 through his retirement. Brown describes her upbringing in Scottsville, Kentucky, which she calls a very small but loving community. Brown mentions that she first worked for Dr. Halcomb as a receptionist in the clinic, which sparked her interest in nursing. Brown says she was originally Dr. Halcomb's patient, but first formally met his family while working as a waitress at the Jacksonian Hotel. She talks about how she and Harriet Halcomb later became friends in high school, and that after school, she had a job in Bowling Green, and Dr. Halcomb asked her to return to Scottsville to work for him.

Keywords: Allen County Hospital; Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Harriet Halcomb; Physicians--Kentucky

Subjects: Bowling Green (Ky.); Churches; Clinics; Doctors; Education; Emergency rooms; Hospitals; Nurses; Nursing schools; Retirement; Rural conditions; Scottsville (Ky.)

00:03:55 - Working as a receptionist for Dr. Halcomb

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Partial Transcript: So tell me about that job.

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes Dr. Halcomb's expectations for a receptionist. Brown says her responsibilities included making appointments, answering the phone and doing insurance paperwork without a computer, which she did from 1970 to 1975.

Keywords: Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Medical care--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky

Subjects: Computers; Family doctors; Health insurance; Occupations; Receptionists; Telephones

00:05:23 - Studying and working as a nurse for Dr. Halcomb

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Partial Transcript: So what was nursing school like?

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes nursing school as an adjustment after so many years away from school. She says she went for an X-ray license because there was a shortage in 1976, she had two weeks to study for a licensing test in Louisville and she and another nurse managed to pass. Brown describes her schedule with Dr. Halcomb. Brown talks about how being a medical receptionist helped her transition to working as a nurse, but her relationship with the patients and doctors changed.

Keywords: Dr. Earl Oliver; Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Halcomb & Oliver Clinic; Halcomb and Oliver Clinic; Licensing; Mariola Shrewsbury Halcomb; Medical care--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky; Rural health--Kentucky

Subjects: Doctor-patient relationships; Education; Food; Hospitals; Licensure, Medical; Louisville (Ky.); Nurse-physician relationship; Nursing schools; Radiology (Medicine); Rural conditions; Telephones; X-rays

00:09:46 - Dr. Halcomb as a person

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Partial Transcript: So talk more about him as a person, what are some of your memories of him as a person?

Segment Synopsis: Brown discusses Dr. Halcomb's unselfishness, and how he made home calls at the end of long work days no matter the weather. She says Halcomb was also involved in many other community organizations.

Keywords: Doctor-patient relationships; Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr; Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians; Physicians--Kentucky; Rotary clubs; Rural health--Kentucky

Subjects: Doctors; Families; Family doctors; Fatherhood; Rural conditions; School boards; Storms; Telephones; Weather

00:12:29 - Changes in medical practice in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So how do you think--more broadly, how do you think medicine has changed from that time?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about how medical practice has changed while she's been practicing: telemedicine instead of home visits, an increase in outside referrals to specialists, and overscheduling patients. She says that no doctor now has the time to practice medicine the way Dr. Halcomb did.

Keywords: Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Home calls; Medical care--Kentucky; Medical referrals; Physicians--Kentucky; Rural health--Kentucky

Subjects: Doctors; Family doctors; Medical practice; Medical specialization; Telemedicine; Telephones

00:13:33 - Mrs. Halcomb was the backbone of the family

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned things, you know, potentially suffered, I think, because he was so busy.

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about Mrs. Halcomb role in the community. She says that Mariola took care of the children, their school, activities and church and Dr. Halcomb. Brown mentions that her own son was treated as a grandchild, and he would often play at the Halcomb house.

Keywords: Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Kentucky--Social conditions; Mariola Shrewsbury Halcomb

Subjects: Baking; Boy Scouts; Candies; Churches; Community; Cookies; Girl Scouts; Rural life

00:15:07 - Brown's friendship with Harriet Halcomb

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Partial Transcript: Talk about your friendship with Harriet.

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes Harriet Halcomb as very outgoing just like her mother. Brown says she was in Spanish club with her, and they co-organized a banquet together for the club. She mentions Harriet would sometimes come by the clinic during summer vacations while she was in college.

Keywords: Halcomb & Oliver Clinic; Halcomb and Oliver Clinic; Harriet Halcomb; Jacksonian Hotel

Subjects: Education; High schools; Language learning; Spanish language

00:16:40 - Brown's memories of the Halcomb house

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Partial Transcript: What are your, what are your memories of the house, here?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about her memories of the Halcomb house. She says she visited frequently, and sometimes house-sat for the family. Brown remembers her flower garden at the back of the house, which had irises and daylilies, and Brown still has daylily bulbs from Mariola growing today.

Keywords: Mariola Shrewsbury Halcomb

Subjects: Community; Country life; Daylilies; Family farms; Flowers; Gardening; House sitting; Irises (Plants)

00:17:49 - Dr. Halcomb's practice and medical staff

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Partial Transcript: So how long--I want to go back to nursing.

Segment Synopsis: Brown says she worked from 1970 to 2013 in Dr. Halcomb's office, which was long enough to treat multiple generations of the same families. She mentions that Dr. Halcomb started treating patients after World War II, in the 1940s and that his practice moved around multiple times. Brown talks about how Dr. Oliver worked with Halcomb from near the beginning all the way through his retirement. She describes a few of the nurses who worked for them: first Amy, then Mary and Brown. Brown talks about a few of her other coworkers, receptionists, lab and X-ray technicians.

Keywords: Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; Halcomb and Oliver Clinic; Medical care--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky; Rural health--Kentucky

Subjects: Childbirth; Family doctors; Hospitals; Nurses; Scottsville (Ky.); Small towns; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

00:20:38 - Dr. Halcomb's Christmas Day house call

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Partial Transcript: So as a person, how did--how--in your--you know, in your opinion, how did he juggle so much?

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes Mariola as the glue that enabled Dr. Halcomb to accomplish everything that he did, from the hours he worked to his house calls. Brown recalls that when her son had a seizure on Christmas she called Dr. Halcomb instead of 911. He came immediately, drove them to the hospital and arranged everything. Brown says the Halcombs were immeasurably important to the community, and remembers how Mariola brought flowers to White Plains Baptist Church on Sundays, and baked goods to anyone with an illness or death in the family.

Keywords: Croup tents; Dr. Francis Joseph "F.J." Halcomb, Jr.; House calls; Mariola Shrewsbury Halcomb; Medical care--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky; Rural health--Kentucky; White Plains Baptist Church

Subjects: 911; Baking; Churches; Community; Emergencies; Family doctors; Flowers; Hospitals; Pneumonia; Roses; Rural conditions; Rural health services; Seizures

00:24:10 - The importance of listening to patients

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Partial Transcript: It seemed like natural--he seemed like a natural teacher, so, so I want to end--even though he was a doctor and did all these other things--what do you feel like you learned from Dr. Halcomb?

Segment Synopsis: Brown says that Dr. Halcomb believed that you'll learn more from listening to your patients than you will from any piece of medical equipment. She recounts an anecdote about one young mother used to call in daily, and how Dr. Halcomb was able to reassure her.

Keywords: Doctor-patient relationships; Medical care--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky; Rural health--Kentucky

Subjects: Doctors; Family medicine; Listening; Nurses; Rural health services